Issue 1 – No Country For Old Ways

16 04 2008

New guy, State of the Art here kicking off the opinions section of the site. This time I’m talking about the DCP and the illegal scanning and downloading of comics.

Searching for anything current on this topic, I found Rich Johnston’s column (Lying in the Gutters) and his column revealing how the old way of conducting business in the comic industry is losing ground to the new:

ITEM! The illegal scanning and distribution of comics has caused a number of tracking sites to be closed down in the last few months.

Individuals involved are painted as slapdash unthinking miscreants, acting without care, vandals of the comics industry.
Naturally, they don’t feel that way themselves. Indeed, I’ve recently come across the scanning guidelines for leading online comic bootleggers, The Digital Comics Preservation Crew, who upload hundreds of comics to Pirate Bay the week of publication, for hundreds of thousands of people to download.

Their given name says much, they see themselves as evangelical archivists who spend thousands of man hours scanning and Photoshopping comics work, with intricate care and detail, exhibiting a real pride in their work. Much like the live music show bootleggers who would spend days on the perfect edit, so these scourges of the sequential art have created an intricate, extensive and frankly long-winded bible for those individuals keen to join them…

I’ve said it before, we’re in the middle of a comics boom as big as the mid-nineties. It’s just instead of people buying millions of copies and storing them in kevlar bags, they’re being stolen instead. And actually read.

I understand that at both Marvel and DC there were internal suggestions that such people be contacted and brought in house, bringing their existing work and experience and adding it to respective archive and trade paperback sections. In both cases such suggestions were instantly snuffed out.

Seeing this I can’t help but think this guy’s on the side of The Man. And I hate to start burning bridges, especially on my first day, but I can’t help myself… I kinda agree with him.

Sorry guys on the side of Jack Sparrow, but when you steal, you’re a thief. I don’t care how much you steal or if you get caught — Stealing’s stealing.

But how do you beat free?

Well, you can’t.

So what do you do?

Change the game.

I remember a seen a post talking about the comics and the web, let me check my bookmarks… Ah, hear it is, from Pulp 2.0:

The answer to all of this is of course, to shift all comics to the web… and to make them free. Yes, you read that right. Free downloads of comics that have advertising in them (just like they do now). Right now, the comics industry would cut off their left testicle (or other organ – take your pick) to get a regular readership of 100K for their comics. As Rich points out – they have that – they’re just not getting paid for it.

By shifting the focus to the web, they maintain their ad income, increase readership and cut costs. They could actually increase their ad income by charging the rate for a 100K audience instead of the typical mid-list audience of 20-35K .
Then, they could print 3-in-1 magazines and distribute those larger, yet cheaper magazines to the comic shop market and newsstands. The new, larger audience would then know exactly where they could go to get the print editions driving sales further without alienating the retail sector.

This of course, could be followed by trade collections.

And even though some guys are doing it now, this is still a long time coming. I’ll end with this, from the same article:

Some company with forward thinking leadership is going to adopt this methodology. They are going to release comics for free on the web, then print editions, then trade collections. They are going to be near profitable from panel one, and…

Comics readers will be better off for it.

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